Pelosi tells Reid: Immigration bill before climate change is ‘fine’

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) she is “fine” with the Senate taking up immigration reform before climate change legislation.

Pelosi made the comments in a private meeting on Tuesday, according to a Democratic aide.

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The aide stressed that the discussion was not about doing one of the high-profile issues instead of the other.

“The conversation was really about timing, not an either-or kind of thing, but timing,” said the aide, who described the talks as a routine meeting of bicameral leaders.

“It is all about what the Senate can move first and pass,” the aide said Wednesday. “Obviously on both of these items -- immigration and comprehensive energy and climate legislation -- we are waiting on the Senate to act.”

“If they [the Senate] can do immigration first, that is fine,” the aide continued, adding that Pelosi told Reid “if you could do immigration first that would work. Both of these initiatives have very strong support in the caucus to do.”

Both issues are high priorities for different constituencies in the Democratic party, and are also controversial. But climate change has been a key personal priority for Pelosi.

The House has already approved a climate bill and leaders are on record as saying the House will not take up immigration reform until the Senate acts.

President Barack Obama, however, has come under criticism from Hispanic lawmakers for not pushing more aggressively on immigration reform, and Reid recently said the Senate would look to move forward on the issue.

Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham  (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) plan to unveil a broad climate and energy measure on April 26. But it remains unclear whether they can gain traction for legislation that includes controversial limits on greenhouse gases.

If Senate leaders bring an immigration bill to the floor, it could squeeze efforts to tackle climate change because Senate lawmakers have several other election-year priorities, such as the debate over a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, said Wednesday that the Speaker has not backed away from her goal of getting climate legislation across the finish line. “The Speaker is fully committed to getting a comprehensive energy and climate bill to the President’s desk this year,” he said.

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